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How to help your child beat the winter blues

Although there are many exciting aspects to winter, the months can be cold, dark and long.

Many adults notice the impact on their mood and may recognise aspects of ‘SAD’ (Seasonal Affective Disorder), which can be described as a type of depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern. Depression in children can be related to many different factors, and although SAD is more common amongst adults, it is possible for children to also be affected.

How can we take action to protect our children from experiencing any of these SAD symptoms and help them beat the winter blues?

boy eating snow in winter

Embrace the cold!

It’s easy to get into the mindset of it being too cold, too dark or too wet to be able to do anything. In reality, these are often our own preferences taking hold rather than our children’s. Most kids love being outside whatever the weather! Get that coat, scarf and hat on, and get outside. Being outdoors for a short amount of time can have a positive impact. It can change your child’s mood, help them let off energy and getting that daylight is essential.

Model a positive response to winter

It sounds like an obvious point, but if our child hears us talk negatively about the winter months and they pick up on our dread of the short, dark days then it’s likely to impact their own view. Model a more positive response to the change in season. Get them excited about all the different things winter brings. Christmas, being cosy, wrapping up warm, and spending more time together at home as a family.

Importance of sleep

The winter blues may manifest in different ways including changes in mood, irritability and fatigue or loss of energy. It’s even more important than usual to make sure your child gets enough sleep. Take time to reflect on bedtime routines to ensure your child is set up to get enough; devices away after a certain time, low lights in preparation for sleep, reading or calming activities Keeping their bed as a place for sleeping rather than playing or working.

Maximise exposure to daylight

There’s no denying it’s harder to get the recommended hours of daylight during the winter months when the darkness draws in much earlier. Finding those small pockets of time to get out while it’s light is the best course of action. If you feel you need to supplement this there are many daylight simulating lights and vitamin D supplements available. Please note there is no substitute for the real thing!

Keep active

The benefits of moving your body are huge when it comes to your physical and mental wellbeing. Being active outside will help with exposure to daylight but even being active inside will impact mood and mindset. Whether it’s running up and down the stairs, an exercise video, Wii challenge or doing a bit of gardening, find an opportunity to get your child moving.

Connect

The winter holiday months can often be peppered with irritability, low mood and fatigue across the family. Take time to plan in moments of connection, grounded in silliness, humour and communication. Playing a board game together, watching a film or spending one on one time with your child are all ways to drive connection and impact their mood.

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